By Steve Nakata, Administrative Services
PULLMAN, Wash. – High-tech industries in Washington and beyond need diverse employees to help them successfully compete in the global marketplace. Some have turned to Washington State University’s team mentoring program (TMP) to find job candidates.
Boeing, AT&T and the Washington Research Foundation recently contributed $135,000 to the program, which supports minority students majoring in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and pre-health.
“Their grants are providing many underrepresented students at WSU with the level of support and educational opportunities necessary for them to persist, thrive and graduate,” said J. Manuel Acevedo, director of the WSU Office of Multicultural Student Services (MSS). “Such support is helping to develop a new generation of leaders, engineers and scientists.”
Nearing a decade of success
TMP enriches students’ college experience through engagement in research, workshops and field trips. It connects them with peer and faculty mentors and with other students in STEM majors.
Since the program was established in 2007, MSS reports it has helped 1,109 undergraduates with the aid of 143 student mentors and 33 faculty mentors.
For 2007-2015 cohorts of active participants, 79 percent have graduated or are on-track to graduate compared to 73 percent of those not active in the program, Acevedo said. When looking at just engineering students, 72 percent of active students have graduated or are projected to graduate with a STEM degree, as opposed to 62 percent who haven’t participated in TMP.
Industry, research value diversity
Rocky Gutierrez, a WSU alumnus and Boeing recruiter, has met with many TMP students, some of whom now work for his company.
“What we have found is that diverse employees bring different ideas and different approaches to the table, often resolving problems quicker,” he said. “It’s really important.”
“Research that reflects a broader perspective is often more useful and more widely applied than research that may not have as much depth,” said Beth Etscheid, director of research commercialization for the Washington Research Foundation. “Companies know the more they can meet the needs of their diverse audiences, the better they will do financially.”
Wise investment for businesses
About 24 percent of AT&T’s subcontractors are minority-, veteran-, disabled- or female-owned businesses, said Carl Gipson, the company’s director of external affairs. But as it grows rapidly around the world, AT&T will need a more diverse workforce.
Gipson met some TMP students on a recent visit to campus.
“The team mentoring program has played a huge role in their education and I was very impressed with them,” he said. “I felt good that my company is investing its money wisely in this program.”
The TMP is a partnership between MSS; the WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences; College of Arts and Sciences; College of Veterinary Medicine and Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture. See an earlier article at https://news.wsu.edu/2016/08/22/student-research-retention-thrive-team-mentoring/.